IN SEARCH OF THE FIRST PROPHET.
/ Topic > 8. Aton + Seth = Yahweh /
/ Forum > TheologyOnLine - General Theology /
/ Newsgroup > alt.bible.prophecy / 27Jan2002 /
So the various authorities offer conflicting (and even wildly absurd) interpretations and evaluations of this odd black pharaoh, because each expert or scholar has his own unique set of interpretive methods, assumptions, biases, etc. This is largely what creates such a confused diversity of views and opinions about Akh-en-Aton. But each interpreter also sees some aspect of the man better than others do; and so every one of them has something to offer to the collective enterprise of historical understanding.
4X: The "period of warrior-kings came to a crashing halt when a young, possibly ill-formed boy came to the throne. Amenhotep IV had a religious conversion and rejected the pantheon of Egyptian gods. Rather, he believed that one and only one god existed and deserved to be worshipped; that god was Aten. Usurping the place of Horus or Re, the traditional Egyptian sun-gods, Amenhotep made Aten the sun-god and created a city dedicated to the worship of that sun-god, Akhetaten, 'the Horizon of Aten'. Renaming himself Akhenaten, the young king with his wife, Nefertiti, moved into this new city of Aten to concentrate on his new religion. This religion is the first monotheistic ('one god') religion we know of in human history. But Akhenaten devoted himself to his new religion and neglected the storm brewing on the Egyptian horizon. For the Hittite empire was pushing against the Egyptian frontier, and the neglect of Aten's king threatened the very existence of Egypt itself" (Richard Hooker).
In other words, Akhenaton was more interested in the inner spiritual life of Egypt, than in expanding the frontiers of the Egyptian Empire. But even in his disinterested foreign policy, he proved to be a tradition-breaker; in the sense that he was not nearly as hostile to non-Egyptians as most of the people were. In about 1350 BCE an Egyptian frontier official informed the Pharaoh (by letter) about some incoming Asiatic nomads (from Syria and Palestine; perhaps even the ancestors of Rameses' Hebrew slaves) "who knew not how they should live, have come begging a home in the domain of Pharaoh ... After the manner of your father's fathers since the beginning" (Pritchard, ANEP #2).
We may suppose that the king's reply was favorable to the famine stricken refugees since he elsewhere displays a remarkable lack of prejudice towards the 'Asiatics', even going so far as to install one of them within the government: "Pharaoh Akhnaton promoted a certain Semite named Tutu to a high position, which entitled him to act as the representative of the crown in certain areas, such as the inspection of public works. The murals on the walls of his tomb in El Amarna portray scenes that are reminiscent of the elevation of Joseph (Gen. 41:41-43). Pharaoh gave him a gold chain and caused him to ride in his chariot, while the people prostrated themselves before him and acclaimed him. In an inscription, Tutu says that he was 'the superior voice in the whole country' and that, among his duties, he received foreign delegations and conveyed their words to the palace" (B.W. Anderson, 'Understanding the Old Testament', 4th Ed., p.46). The importance of all this should be clear: It was the remembrance of Tutu that constitutes the kernel of historical truth lying behind the story of Joseph and his brothers.
So we are now aware that the effects of the black pharaoh extend into two key areas of the Torah (ie. Joseph and Rameses), and the reader may be well assured that his influence does not stop there (4X: compare Akhenaton's 'Hymn to the Aton' with Psalm 104). That the prophet-prince of Egypt was himself aware of (and influenced by) Akh-en-Aton is a natural (and indeed inevitable) conclusion (ie. there is less than 70 years between the black pharaoh and the prophet-prince; hardly more than a drop in the bucket). To thus deny any connection between these two men (as indeed all the so-called experts do) is not only grossly anti-historical, but exceedingly irrational as well!
If we therefore assume that Moses was an educated Egyptian (one of the few who were literate), then he could hardly be unaware of the amazing developments of the recent past. His formal education would have made no mention of Akhenaton and his god Aton, "the Living One", but talk of such forbidden topics was still circulating (at least among the nobility) and would eventually have reached the ears of the young prince. Now the idea of Aton was, for its time, a very lofty and advanced conception of God; for this was a God who was both transcendent and immanent, remote and immediate, detached and yet vitally concerned with all aspects of human life. I wish to stress this point so that the reader will understand that when Moses came along, he certainly did NOT start with a blank slate.
In fact, Moses' conception of deity is actually a step *downward* from that of Akhenaton, in the sense that his god (called "I Am What I Am" in Ex.3:14) can be best understood as a fusion of the qualities and characteristics of two Egyptian deities. The first is the sun-disk Aton (Yahweh's benevolent, creative, and universal qualities), and the second is the powerful god Seth (or Set) who was regarded as the god of storms, deserts, violence, chaos, darkness, and confusion. Now this Seth may seem an unlikely prototype for the liberating god of the Hebrews, but in reality there is much to recommend it. Two features in particular would make him stand out in Moses' mind: 1) Seth was the god of foreign lands; and 2) After they settled in Egypt the Hyksos took Seth as their chief deity (meaning that he would still be the most popular god among Egypt's slaves in Moses' time).
Now the prophet-prince of Egypt was no dummy. He knew very well that the slaves would not accept the subtle and refined conception of God favored by the Black Pharaoh, but they would accept a god like unto Seth (whom they both knew and understood). Thus when Yahweh first breaks into history it is NOT as a benevolent and loving savior; (these qualities appear only in hindsight). Instead He initially manifests as a violent and powerful divine warrior making war upon another violent and powerful divine warrior (namely, the god-king Rameses II). But for the Egyptian people, Yahweh's assault upon the nation revealed Him to be a cruel and terrifying god. They were not to blame for Pharaoh's stubborn resistance to Moses' pleas for freedom, yet they were the ones who suffered most from Yahweh's attacks. It had to be that way, of course, because an attack upon Egypt is the exact equivalent of a direct attack upon Pharaoh. We can say that Pharaoh was to blame for the calamities that fell upon Egypt, but this ignores the testimony of the sacred texts that indicate that Pharaoh's resistance was, at least in part, encouraged and strengthened by Yahweh to the end that He would have occasion to flex his divine-warrior muscles.
That in itself suggests that 'I Am What I Am' is far more Seth-like than Aton-like. Indeed, it would not be until the coming of the prophet from Nazareth that God would fully regain his aspect of being the universal loving father of all humankind. Now that's a long way to go in order to get back to Akhenaton's "Living One", but that's the way history generally proceeds. It takes centuries, or more, for the world to catch up with its greatest souls. Thus Akhenaton's spiritual revolution failed not because it was inherently flawed or somehow defective, but rather because the people who could have encouraged its adoption (ie. the priests), and spread it among the populace, were incapable of spiritual growth, and thus remained hostile to Akh-en-Aton and his new bloodless religion. But no revolution is completely defeated so long as even just one man remembers. Therefore if Moses is the spiritual father of the Faith, then the Black Pharaoh is both the grand-father and the god-father!
- the one who makes the necessary conneections - textman ;>
/ Topic > 9. On Being Less Than a God-King /
/ Forum > TheologyOnLine - General Theology /
/ Newsgroup > alt.bible.prophecy / 30Jan2002 /"The world came into being by your hand, according as you [ie. 'Aton the Living One'] have made them [ie. all living creatures]. When you have risen they live, and when you set they die; for one lives only through you. As long as you are in the sky they live in you, and their eyes are all upon your beauty until you set. And they set aside their work of every kind when you set in the west. You rise and you make to grow and flourish for the king; since the time when you did lay the foundations of the earth, and you did raise them up for your son who came forth from your body." -- from the Hymn to AtonBefore Akhenaton, the sun-god Aten (or Aton) was a minor and obscure local deity (in the region of Heliopolis). At this time (ie. the Middle Kingdom period) Aton was "regarded as the material body of the sun wherein dwelt the god Ra, and that he represented merely the solar disk, and was the visible emblem of the great sun-god" (www.touregypt.net/aten.htm). But in his new capital city ('the Horizon of Aton') the black pharaoh built a temple for Aton, called 'the House of Aton', which "contained many alters wherein incense was burnt and offerings were laid, but no sacrifices of any kind were offered up on them" (touregypt). And so the conflict between the priests of Thebes and the pharaoh Akh-en-Aton stems from the blatant contradictions between their respective beliefs and ideas regarding the gods. Thus while the priests asserted that Amon-Re was 'the king of the gods', the black pharaoh asserted instead the superiority of Aton as the "giver of life, and the source of all life on this earth, and that his symbols were the heat and light of the sun which vivified and nourished all creation" (touregypt). Akhenaton's solar universalism therefore cast aside the obscure mythology and compromising theology of the priests, as well as their pointless and bloody rituals, and so was a major leap forward in the rationalization of religion.
Thus Aton was the glorious, self-existent, and everlasting creator who fed and maintained all creatures, and determined the duration of their lives. The unity and universality of Aton also meant that there was no need for, and no room for, any other gods. "Rather, Akhenaten's innovation was to worship the Aten in its own right. Portrayed as a solar disc whose protective rays terminated in hands holding the ankh hieroglyph for life, the Aten was accessible only to Akhenaten, thereby obviating the need for an intermediate priesthood" (touregypt). But the truly unique and remarkable thing about the king's new religion was not so much the doctrines and conceptions regarding Aton, but rather the character of the *practice* of the new faith. The worship of Aton was a predominantly joyous and sensuous occasion filled with incense, fruit, flowers, hymns and music. The radical nature of this religion is evident in both its communal involvement and it's entirely bloodless character. The complete lack of bloody sacrifices also blurred the lines of distinction between the officiating ministers and the average Atonite.
In the same way, the recognition of Aton as the only god ["O sole god, like whom there is no other" (Hymn to Aton)] meant that the king was no longer the manifestation or incarnation of divinity; although he was recognized as "thy beloved son" and "the Son of the Sun, who lives on justice and truth" (Hymn to Aton). Being thus divested of all divine attributes also brought pharaoh down from the sky and placed him firmly among the people as the first among equals. It is this unprecedented humanizing of the divine pharaoh that accounts for the revolutionary art styles developed at the Horizon of Aton (and which has led so many interpreters astray), and which is the key truth to appreciate in order to reach an adequate understanding of the Black Pharaoh from the Black Land.
But who was this strange negro-king really? Not surprisingly, most of the authorities and experts we have seen seem not to have a truly solid grasp on him. And since idiotic opinions and evaluations about him abound, it is essential to clear away the flak and stupidity that obscures our view of this man (who is undoubtedly the greatest black man who ever lived). Professor Rempel, however, recognizes the true character of the black pharaoh, and even calls him "a 'God-intoxicated man', whose mind responded with marvelous sensitiveness and discernment to the visible evidences of God about him. He was absolutely ecstatic in his sense of the beauty of the eternal and universal light."
Akh-en-Aton's sense of the universal presence of God necessarily did away with the secrecy and mystery that set the gods apart from the people such that only the priesthood could have direct access to the gods, and thus mediate on behalf of the citizens (who were excluded from the most sacred rituals). In abolishing the gods (and their demands for bloody sacrifices) in favor of one universal father, the source and center of all life and creation, Akh-en-Aton had effectively nullified the role of, and need for, the priesthood. His bloodless and joyful religion was thus an altogether different sort of religion; one based on love and thanksgiving, rather than fear and the need to mollify the often fickle and unpredictable gods.
But if Akh-en-Aton is not the high priest of the Living One, then what was he exactly? Something new, apparently. Something for which there was as yet no word to describe. Yet the king did not suffer from any confusion about what his role should be. He was one "who lives on justice and truth", and had a unique relationship with God, one that is not shared with other believers, and that has little to do with "sonship" as such:"You are in my heart, and there is no other that knows you,But if we wish to know what the black pharaoh understood his role to be, we have only to look closely at the name which he gave to himself. Now this name is spelled in different ways by the various authorities, and not surprisingly is also translated in different ways. This makes it difficult to say which is right, or even which is the best; but if we examine them all together they may shed some light upon each other such that we may get some crude idea of who and what this king of Egypt thought himself to be:
save your son Nefer-kheperu-Re-Wa-en-Re [ie. Akh-en-Aton];
For you have made him to be wise and understanding through
your councils and through your strength" (Hymn to Aton).
Akhnaton > the Sun's Glory (H.G. Wells)
Akhnaton > Aton is Satisfied (G. Rempel)
Akhenaten > He Who is of Service to Aten (touregypt)
Ikhnaton > Profitable to Aton (Breasted)
Akh-en-Aton > He Who is Serviceable to the Aton (Pritchard)
Akh-en-Aton > the Servant of Aton (Drioton)
Akhenaten > He who is effective on the Aten's behalf (N. Reeves)
Akhenaten / Akhanyati > He who is useful to Aten / Radiance of Aten (Hornung)
In the centuries ahead it will become well known that a servant (or slave) of God is nothing other than a prophet. One who speaks for God is one who is serviceable or profitable to God. All of these translations can be taken as accurate definitions of the prophet. But what exactly does the prophet do for his God? His role or purpose can perhaps be best described according to the following characteristics or qualities:1) a prophet seeks and promotes the truthAll of these signs of the prophet are clearly visible in Akh-en-Aton. Indeed he single-handedly created and defined this new class of 'servant', such that there can be no doubt that he is the world's first prophet, and in fact 'THE prophet' without whom Moses would have been unable to be the great prophet-prince of Egypt that he was. Akh-en-Aton baked the cake that Moses ate, and then was promptly cast aside as a worthless and useless 'failed revolutionary'. But Akh-en-Aton was of great value to God in preparing the way for Moses and the People of God, and today the world honors his essential contribution with claims that he was sick and deformed, that he was led about by the nose (by his wife), that he was a homosexual, and by otherwise pissing all over him! Yet the People of God would do well to remember that the Logos was there from the beginning, and that the Black Pharaoh was His son, His good and faithful servant without whom there could not have been a Moses or an Israel.
2) a prophet denies and resists error
3) a prophet acts with power and conviction
4) a prophet is of use and value to God
5) a prophet praises and worships God
6) a prophet teaches the people, and leads them in prayer
7) a prophet is a tradition-breaker and a tradition-maker
8) a prophet is a writer and/or an original thinker
In closing this long and confused investigation into the origins of the prophets, I could hardly do better than to give the final word to Professor Rempel's considered appraisal of the black pharaoh: "Until Akhenaton the history of the world had been but the irresistible drift of tradition. All men had been but drops of water in the great current. Akhenaton was the first individual in history. Consciously and deliberately, by intellectual process he gained his position, and then placed himself squarely in the face of tradition and swept it aside. ... Akhenaton was the world's first revolutionary, and he was fully convinced that he might entirely recast the world of religion, thought, and life by the invincible purpose he held. Like all true revolutionaries at all times Akhenaton was fully persuaded that his ideas were right and that all men would eventually benefit by them."
And indeed they did. Amen!
- the one with sunny disposition - texttman ;>